5 Facts About Ovarian Cancer
by Pat Battaglia
It’s long been said that knowledge is power. But more importantly, knowledge is an important key to empowerment. With that in mind, we present the following facts about ovarian cancer.
While there are many other facts, and infinitely more lives impacted by this disease, we can begin this journey of a thousand miles with one small step. Or five.
1. Ovarian cancer does not always start in the ovaries.
Recent evidence suggests that many ovarian cancers may actually begin in the fallopian tubes. For reasons that are poorly understood, cells from very early-stage fallopian tube cancers can migrate to the ovaries or the peritoneum (the membrane that lines the abdomen), where they begin to grow rapidly.
2. Most who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are not at increased risk for the disease.
About half are 63 years or older. Other common risk factors include:
- A family history of ovarian, uterine, breast, or colorectal cancer
- Carrying a genetic mutation in the BRCA 1 or BRCA2 genes, or the mutation associated with Lynch Syndrome
- An Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
- Having endometriosis
3. There are factors that can reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding are associated with a modest reduction in risk.
- Oral contraceptives can also reduce the risk slightly, although this must be balanced against the small increase in the risk of breast cancer associated with these medications.
- Risk-reducing surgery is an option for those who carry genetic mutations linked to ovarian cancer.
4. The early signs of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognize.
Pay attention to your body, and know what is normal for you. Some common early signs of ovarian cancer are:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary urgency or frequency
- Pain during sex
- Menstrual abnormalities or postmenopausal bleeding
If you experience these for more than two weeks, contact a health care provider. Advocate for yourself if you need to!
5. Ovarian cancer survivors are a wellspring of support and companionship to each other.
The Coalition’s dynamic community of thrivers, survivors, fellow travelers along the way (or insert the term that suits YOU best) is here for all who have heard the words, “You have ovarian cancer.” Reach out to us. You aren’t alone!